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Should You Apply to Jobs Before or After Taking the NCLEX?

In my opinion, it is generally better to apply for jobs after taking the NCLEX. While there are pros and cons to both approaches, waiting until after you have passed the exam can increase your chances of success in both the job application process and the NCLEX itself.

Let’s explore why this is the case and how you can navigate the job search while preparing for the NCLEX.

Timing Your Job Application

Cons of Applying Before Taking the NCLEX

Applying for jobs before taking the NCLEX can have its advantages. It allows you to get a head start on the job search process and potentially secure a job offer early on. However, there are some downsides to consider:

  • Lack of eligibility: Many job postings require a valid nursing license or proof of passing the NCLEX. Without these credentials, you may not be considered for certain positions.
  • Added pressure: Balancing job applications and NCLEX preparation can be overwhelming, as both require time and effort. It may be challenging to give your best to both tasks simultaneously.
  • Limited options: Some employers may be hesitant to hire candidates who have not yet passed the NCLEX, as there is a risk that they may not pass the exam and obtain their license.

Pros of Applying After Taking the NCLEX

On the other hand, applying for jobs after passing the NCLEX can offer several advantages:

  • Increased eligibility: With a valid nursing license in hand, you become eligible for a wider range of job opportunities. This can open doors to positions that require licensure or that offer higher salaries.
  • Confidence boost: Passing the NCLEX can boost your confidence and make you feel more prepared for the job search process. It can also serve as a selling point during interviews, as it demonstrates your commitment and dedication to the nursing profession.
  • Reduced pressure: By waiting until after the NCLEX, you can dedicate your full attention to preparing for the exam. This can alleviate the stress of juggling multiple responsibilities and increase your chances of success.

The Ideal Approach to Applying for Jobs

Navigating Job Applications While Preparing for the NCLEX

If you choose to apply for jobs before taking the NCLEX, it’s crucial to manage your time and priorities effectively. Here are some tips to help you navigate the job application process while preparing for the exam:

  • Plan your study schedule: Create a study schedule that allows you to allocate sufficient time for both job applications and NCLEX preparation. Prioritize your study time but set aside specific time slots for job search activities.
  • Focus on quality over quantity: Rather than applying to numerous positions, focus on quality applications. Tailor your resume and cover letter to each job, showcasing your relevant skills and experiences.
  • Stay organized: Keep track of the positions you have applied to, the deadlines, and any follow-up actions required. Utilize spreadsheets or job search platforms to streamline your job application process.

Balancing Study and Job Search Efforts

If you decide to apply for jobs after passing the NCLEX, maintain a balanced approach. Here are some tips for successfully managing both:

  • Celebrate your achievement: Take some time to celebrate and acknowledge your success in passing the NCLEX. This will help boost your confidence and motivation as you begin your job search.
  • Set realistic goals: Create a plan for your job search, setting realistic goals for the number of applications you will submit each week or month. This will help keep you focused and motivated.
  • Allocate dedicated time: Set aside specific time each day or week to dedicate to your job search. Treat it as a priority and give it the attention it deserves.
  • Utilize your network: Reach out to your professional network, including classmates, professors, and clinical instructors, to let them know you are actively searching for job opportunities. They may be aware of positions that are not yet advertised or be willing to provide recommendations or references.
  • Stay resilient: Remember that job searching can be a challenging and often lengthy process. Stay resilient and persistent, knowing that the right opportunity will come along with patience and perseverance.

Tips for Success in Job Applications and NCLEX

Key Considerations When Applying for Jobs

When applying for nursing positions, keep these considerations in mind to increase your chances of success:

  • Read job descriptions carefully: Pay close attention to the requirements and qualifications listed in job descriptions. Ensure that you meet the criteria before applying to maximize your chances of getting an interview.
  • Highlight relevant experiences: Tailor your resume and cover letter to highlight your relevant experiences, including clinical rotations, internships, and any specialized certifications or training.
  • Emphasize transferable skills: Even if you do not have extensive nursing experience, emphasize transferable skills such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving abilities. These skills are highly valued in the nursing profession.
  • Prepare for interviews: Practice common interview questions and prepare examples of how you have demonstrated key nursing competencies in previous experiences. Research the organization and come prepared with questions to ask the interviewer.

Strategies for NCLEX Preparation and Success

To increase your chances of success in the NCLEX, consider these strategies:

  • Utilize study resources: Take advantage of study resources such as review books, online courses, and practice exams. These can help you familiarize yourself with the exam format and identify areas where you need additional study.
  • Create a study plan: Develop a study plan that covers all the content areas tested on the NCLEX. Break down your study sessions into manageable chunks and set specific goals for each session.
  • Practice time management: The NCLEX is a timed exam, so it’s important to practice managing your time effectively. Use practice exams to simulate the test environment and work on pacing yourself.
  • Seek support: Consider joining study groups or finding a study partner to keep you motivated and accountable. Discussing and reviewing content with others can enhance your understanding and retention.
  • Take care of yourself: Prioritize self-care during your NCLEX preparation. Get enough sleep, eat nutritious meals, and engage in activities that help you relax and destress. Taking care of your physical and mental well-being will contribute to your overall success.

Overcoming Uncertainties

Dealing with Potential Job Rejections

Receiving job rejections is a common part of the job search process. While it can be disheartening, remember it is not a reflection of your worth as a nurse.

Here are some tips for dealing with potential job rejections:

  • Reflect and learn: Take some time to reflect on the interview process and identify areas for improvement. Consider seeking feedback from interviewers to gain insight into how you can strengthen your future applications.
  • Stay positive: Maintain a positive mindset and remind yourself that the right opportunity will come along. Rejection is a normal part of the job search process, and each rejection brings you one step closer to finding the right fit.
  • Keep moving forward: Don’t let rejection discourage you from continuing your job search. Stay persistent, keep refining your application materials and interview skills, and continue to apply to positions that align with your goals and qualifications.

Remaining Confident and Persistent in Your Job Search

Finding the right job can take time, but it’s important to remain confident and persistent throughout the process.

Here are some final words of advice to help you stay motivated:

  • Believe in yourself: Remember that you have worked hard to become a nurse and have successfully passed the NCLEX. Trust in your abilities and believe that you have valuable skills to offer to potential employers.
  • Seek support: Lean on your support system, whether it’s friends, family, or mentors. They can provide encouragement, advice, and reassurance during the job search process.
  • Stay proactive: Take initiative in your job search by actively seeking out opportunities, networking, and staying updated on industry trends and developments. This proactive approach can make a difference in finding the right job.
  • Stay resilient: Job searching can be challenging, and there may be setbacks along the way. Stay resilient and learn from each experience. Use any rejections or setbacks as motivation to improve and grow.
  • Celebrate small wins: Remember to celebrate any progress you make, whether it’s receiving an interview invitation or getting positive feedback on your application. Recognize your achievements, no matter how small, and use them as fuel to keep moving forward.

In conclusion, while there are pros and cons to applying to jobs before or after taking the NCLEX, regardless of the approach you choose, remember to stay positive, believe in yourself, and remain persistent in your job search. With dedication, preparation, and a confident mindset, you can find the right job and kickstart your nursing career.


Q: How can I make my job applications stand out to potential employers?
To make your job applications stand out, tailor your resume and cover letter to each position you apply for. Highlight relevant experiences, skills, and qualifications that align with the job requirements. Additionally, consider including any specialized certifications or training that make you a strong candidate.

Q: Is it necessary to have nursing experience before applying for jobs?
While nursing experience can be beneficial, it is not always necessary for entry-level positions. Employers often value transferable skills such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving abilities. Highlighting these skills, along with your education and clinical rotations, can make you a competitive candidate even without extensive nursing experience.

Q: How can I manage my time effectively while preparing for the NCLEX and applying for jobs simultaneously?
To manage your time effectively, create a study schedule that allows for dedicated time for both NCLEX preparation and job applications. Prioritize your study time but set aside specific time slots for job search activities. Staying organized and setting realistic goals can also help you balance both tasks efficiently.

Q: Should I disclose that I am still studying for the NCLEX in my job applications?
It is not necessary to disclose that you are still studying for the NCLEX in your job applications. Focus on highlighting your qualifications, experiences, and commitment to the nursing profession. Once you have passed the exam and obtained your license, you can provide this information during interviews or when requested by potential employers.

Q: How can I stay motivated during the job search process?
Staying motivated during the job search process can be challenging, but there are several strategies you can try. Set realistic goals for your job search, celebrate small wins, and remind yourself of your accomplishments and qualifications. Seek support from your network and surround yourself with positive and encouraging individuals. Remember that the right opportunity will come along with persistence and a positive mindset.

Q: What should I do if I receive multiple job offers before taking the NCLEX?
If you receive multiple job offers before taking the NCLEX, carefully evaluate each offer based on factors such as location, salary, benefits, and potential for growth. Consider your long-term career goals and the opportunities each offer presents. It may be helpful to consult with mentors, professors, or professionals in the field to gather insights and make an informed decision.

Q: How can I stay updated on job opportunities in the nursing field?
To stay updated on job opportunities in the nursing field, utilize various resources. Monitor job search websites and platforms specifically geared towards healthcare professionals. Join nursing associations or organizations that offer job boards and networking opportunities. Stay connected with your professional network, including classmates, professors, and clinical instructors, who may be aware of job openings or able to provide referrals.

Q: What should I do if I do not pass the NCLEX on my first attempt?
If you do not pass the NCLEX on your first attempt, it is important not to get discouraged. Take some time to reflect on your preparation and identify areas where you can improve. Consider seeking additional study resources, such as review courses or tutoring, to strengthen your knowledge and skills. Take advantage of the feedback provided in your score report to guide your studying. With dedication and persistence, you can retake the exam and pass successfully.

Q: Can I work as a nurse without passing the NCLEX?
In most cases, you cannot work as a nurse without passing the NCLEX and obtaining your nursing license. The NCLEX is a requirement for licensure, which is necessary to practice nursing in most healthcare settings. It is crucial to successfully pass the exam and obtain your license before beginning your nursing career.